Typing a double space after a full stop is wrong, period. With one space.
Microsoft Word is to start flagging the use of two spaces between sentences as an error — reflecting the standard accepted by most style guides.
The formatting error will begin being flagged by the popular word processing application with a blue wavy line.
The popular use of double-spacing is a hangover from the days of typewriting when the equal-width characters of ‘monospaced’ fonts called for clearer sentence endings.
The introduction of proportional-spacing typewriters in 1944, however, began the process of rendering the extra space unnecessary for ensuring easy readability.
Nevertheless, the tradition of double-spacing continued — and is often found among those individuals who were first taught to type on a typewriter.
The new rule is being rolled out slowly across Word, meaning that users may not encounter the new warning until they update their software.
For the militant two-spacers among us, however, fear not — it will be possible to instruct the popular word-processing software to ignore the error.
DOUBLE-SPACING IS A HABIT FROM THE DAYS OF TYPEWRITING
Many people still double-space after a sentence because this was how they were taught to use a typewriter.
From their invention in 1868 to 1944, all typewriters used so-called ‘monospaced fonts’, in which characters of a given font size all occupied the same width on the page.
This results in larger gaps between characters, making the ends of sentences harder to spot — a problem that first triple and then double spaces mitigated.
(In fact, the habit of using extra space to help delineate the end of a sentence actually pre-dates the typewriter, and typesetters traditionally used an em-space (one equal in width to the letter ‘m’) for this purpose in justified text.
This practice among printers fell out of use in the 1940s–50s, partly to simplify the mass production of newspapers, magazines, and pulp novels.)
In 1944, IBM’s release of the ‘Executive’ version of their electronic typewriter helped begin a shift towards typefaces with so-called proportional spacing — where, for example, the letter ‘w’ takes up more room than ‘i’.
While this negated the need for double-spacing, the practice continued to be taught to many of those learning typewriting classes — with the habit persisting to today.
The advent of HTML standards — which, for ease of programming, ignore additional spaces — has reinforced single-spacing.
‘As the crux of the great spacing debate, we know this is a stylistic choice that may not be the preference for all writers, which is why we continue to test with users and enable these suggestions to be easily accepted, ignored, or flat out dismissed in Editor,’ Microsoft Partner Director of Program Management Kirk Gregersen told the MailOnline.
The change to Microsoft’s spelling and grammar check was first spotted by Alan Chen, a professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.
‘Microsoft Word now showing 2 spaces after a period as an error,’ he tweeted.
‘The one-spacers have won,’ he concluded.
Microsoft may only have just made the transition to discouraging its users from double-spacing, but typographic authorities have been ‘one-spacers’ for some time.
Prominent style guides including those of the APA, PA, the US Government, and the Chicago Manual of Style all advocate against the use of double-spacing.
Arguments against the use of double spaces include saving time, saving paper when printed, and helping to minimize the risk of so-called ‘rivers of white’ — runs of spacing down a printed page that has the potential to disrupt readability.
In fact, Matthew Butterick — author of the book ‘Practical Typography’ — writes that the ‘one space’ rule is ‘not a matter of argument.’
‘One option has the support of typography authorities and professional practice; the other option does not. The issue is not ambiguous,’ he added.
‘Like language, typographic conventions do change.’
‘In the past, spacing habits have been different. In another forty or fifty years, maybe they’ll have changed again.’
For now, however, ‘—one space,’ he concludes.
2018, a study published in the Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics whipped up a typographic storm when it concluded from experiments that people’s reading speed increased by around 3 percent when reading text with double-spaced sentences.
‘Increased spacing has been shown to help facilitate processing in a number of other reading studies,’ paper author Rebecca Johnson of Skidmore College in New York told the Atlantic in an email (which, reportedly, she double spaced!)
‘Removing the spaces between words altogether drastically hurts our ability to read fluently and increasing the amount of space between words helps us process the text,’ she added.
However, critics noted that the findings only applied to those readers who already type using double spaces.
Furthermore, the tests were both undertaken on only a computer screen, rather than also testing printed text, and involved monospaced fonts — the exact type of font for which the practice of double-spacing was created to improve readability.
In contrast, the team did not assess the impact of double vs single spacing on proportional fonts, which they conceded are more common.
Many people still double-space after a sentence because this was how they were taught to use a typewriter. From their invention in 1868 to 1944, all typewriters used so-called ‘monospaced fonts’, in which characters of a given font size all occupied the same width on the page. This results in larger gaps between characters, making the ends of sentences harder to spot — a problem that first triple and then double spaces mitigated
The change to Microsoft’s spelling and grammar check was first spotted by Alan Chen, a professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.’ Microsoft Word now showing 2 spaces after a period as an error,’ he tweeted. ‘The one-spacers have won,’ he concluded
Regardless of the expert opinion, the discovery of the changes to Word’s spelling and grammar checker rules has been met with varied reactions online.
‘With a word processing program, the appropriate amount of spacing is included by hitting the space bar one time,’ wrote Twitter user @jfetz.
‘Besides, who likes wasting space?’ they added.
Justin Mikolay tweeted: ‘For years I was a proponent of two spaces after a period […] Today I’m proud I was convinced (about two years ago by the excellent arguments of the one-spacers.’
In response, Twitter used @FewUgly quipped: ‘Traitor.’
Meanwhile, @Atticus59914029 wrote that the news heralded ‘a dark day in the annals of humanity. Two spaces.’
Regardless of the expert opinion, the discovery of the changes to Word’s spelling and grammar checker rules has been met with varied reactions online
‘With a word processing program, the appropriate amount of spacing is included by hitting the space bar one time,’ wrote Twitter user @jfetz. ‘Besides, who likes wasting space?’ they added
THE EXPERTS AGREE: DOUBLE SPACING IS NO LONGER NEEDED
Experts are quite unanimous about the redundancy of double-spacing in modern typography.
‘Use a single word space between sentences, instructs Canadian typographer and poet Robert Bringhurst in his authoritative 2012 guide, The Elements of Typographic Style.
For those using two spaces, he has the following advice: ‘your typing, as well as your typesetting, will benefit from unlearning [the] quaint Victorian habit.’
In his ‘The Complete Manual of Typography’, meanwhile, James Felici writes that the war between the one- and two-spacers is ‘the debate that refuses to die […] In all my years of writing about the type, it’s still the question I hear most often, and a search of the web will find threads galore on the subject.’
However, he adds, ‘the typewriter tradition of separating sentences with two-word spaces after a period has no place in typesetting.’
‘Forget about tolerating differences of opinion,’ adds Type Studio founder Ilene Strizver.
‘Typographically speaking, typing two spaces before the start of a new sentence is absolutely, unequivocally wrong.’